Inicial > External News, NHL, Toronto Maple Leafs > DiManno: Leafs GM mourns demise of NHL enforcers

DiManno: Leafs GM mourns demise of NHL enforcers

sexta-feira, 17 fevereiro 2012 Deixe um comentário Go to comments

*** Pessoal, esta será a primeira matéria publicada aqui no Maple Leafs Brasil com o texto em inglês. Infelizmente não tive tempo disponível para traduzí-la e, como podem ver, a matéria é de 05 de janeiro e estava ficando tarde demais para esperar a tradução e publicá-la. Caso alguém tenha dificuldades com o idioma inglês, sugiro utilizar o Google Translator para efetuar a tradução do texto.

De agora em diante, quando eu encontrar alguma matéria interessante, colocarei aqui no Maple Leafs Brasil, sempre citando a fonte, para o conhecimento de todos.

Published On Thu Jan 05 2012
 Enforcer Colton Orr wipes sweat at the start of Marlies practice Friday. The tough guy was sent down by the Leafs because of the changing style of the NHL game, Toronto GM Brian Burke says in comments that sparked debate.Enforcer Colton Orr wipes sweat at the start of Marlies practice Friday. The tough guy was sent down by the Leafs because of the changing style of the NHL game, Toronto GM Brian Burke says in comments that sparked debate.Rene Johnston/TORONTO STAR

By Rosie DiManno Columnist

It was Brian Burke’s requiem for the fighter.

A lament for a breed that, as of noon Thursday, officially lost one more from among its NHL ranks when Colton Orr cleared waivers.

Minutes after the Leaf GM made his confirmation phone call to the Maple Leaf tough guy — an unpleasant task that, looming, had caused Burke sleepless nights — he unleashed an eloquent tirade on whither a game that no longer appears to have room or sympathy for the devils of pugilism.

“I know the Greenpeace folks will be happy with this. But I wonder where we’re going when Brendan Shanahan is getting six hearings every two days. I wonder about the accountability in our game and the notion that players would stick up for themselves and for each other. The only lament I have on this is the fear that if we don’t have guys looking after each other the rats will take over.

“I see guys run around and start stuff and won’t back it up and it makes me sick to my stomach.’’

It is a fearless, or maybe foolish, man who will come to the defence of the defenders of honour in hockey these days. And by sending Orr down to the Marlies, Burke has, by his own admission, contributed to the attrition of an endangered species. “A player with the character of Colton Orr, when he can’t contribute to this league, then I’m not sure if I like where we’re going with this.

“You go into this game with the roster that gives you the best chance to win. And if there’s no dance partner for Colton Orr then it’s pretty hard to not say that Darryl Boyce gives us more on a given night or maybe Joey Crabb. It’s almost like you’re adding up assets on a sheet and saying what Colton provides, does that provide the same benefits maybe as a guy who can skater better than he can?

“We made the same judgment so I’m not throwing stones here.’’

He did lob a few grenades, however, rhetorical rockets that fly against prevailing winds in the NHL.

There may indeed be a dwindling need for the enforcer. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the game is significantly better for it. There are ramifications. When fighting — taking care of one’s teammates, as required, sometimes preemptively — is considered a redundancy, grievances are either then settled by other means or not settled at all, merely allowed to metastasize on the sly. Hence the enforcer becomes replaced by the agitator, the punk, the rodent; a subspecies now thriving in a league without consequences.

Ah, but there are consequences, you might say. Shanahan, as punisher-in-chief, has handed down 27 suspensions thus far this season (including exhibition games) and they nearly all relate to incidents where, in the past, antagonists would not have dared taken such liberties.

In the new, gentler NHL, the office of discipline has mutated into a kind of human rights commission, inundated with cases of cheap-shot artists requiring daddy-mediation where once they would have been discouraged by the threat of instant retaliation and retribution.

“Players in the old days, they protected themselves and then it evolved into players protecting their teammates,’’ notes Burke, who once held that job that Shanahan currently fills. “Now I’m not sure who’s looking after it other than Brendan Shanahan. He needs a telephone receptionist at his house because of all this crap that’s going on on the ice, these guys that won’t back it up, won’t drop their gloves, running around elbowing people in the heading and (hitting) from behind.

“Pick one of the suspensions,’’ he adds. “Would these guys do those things if there was retribution available, if there was accountability in the game? I’m not so sure.’’

In a later conversation, Burke reiterated that core issue: “The league was always the court of last resort. First was the player you hit, then his teammates, then the NHL.’’

Quicker foot-speed has altered the NHL game and that’s certainly to the good but also a factor in eclipsing the fighter whose talents are usually limited. Burke is a fan of the new style’s pace and creativity but he’s troubled by what else hockey might jettison in the pursuit of change.

“I love how the game has evolved in terms of how it’s played. But you’re seeing, when there is no accountability, that this is the by-product, people running around who won’t back it up … I’m not sure that’s a healthy revolution.

“Players policed the game. You used to have to answer for that. If you were going to cheap-shot a guy, you had to fight him or fight someone else on his team who was tougher than he was. That seems to be gone now. There are no checks and balances. It’s, well, I’ll just elbow the guy in the head. You saw what happened in this building the other night, Steve Downie going after Dion Phaneuf.’’

So why should hockey be different from any other sport, where fighting is simply not allowed, case closed? The thing is, that difference has always defined hockey; it is part of the sport’s culture and we, Canadians who believe themselves custodians of the game, shouldn’t be rueful about it.

“We’ve allowed fighting in our game since we opened our doors for business,’’ says Burke. “The role of fighting, the strategy behind fighting, has been systematically reduced, which I support. But there’s still been a level of accountability which appears to be drying out very quickly. And I don’t care what they do in other sports. I don’t work in other sports.’’

A tangent of fighting is hard hitting, or vice-versa to be more accurate. Burke worries, quite rightly, that homogenizing the sport could eventually lead to removal of that critical component of hockey.

“If you go to logical extremes, if you take that out, the only thing that’s standing between players crossing the line and not crossing the line is the league office.’’

Suspensions that arise from questionable hits, continues Burke, are making all players hit-shy. “I had a linesman tell our coach last week he’s had players say to him — ‘I’m not hitting anybody, I’m not getting suspended.’

“It’s corrosive, if players are afraid to hit. Right now, it seems to be the only deterrent we have.

“If you go to logical extremes, if you take that out, the only thing that’s standing between players crossing the line and not crossing the line is the league office.’’

I’d take an enforcer over a suit any day, even if Brendan Shanahan is wearing it.

  1. renattomd
    sexta-feira, 24 fevereiro 2012 às 1:01

    Cara, concordo com o Burke. Acho que a Liga tem, sim, que punir os ‘hits’ ilegais, mas “matar” a figura do ‘enforcer’ ou até mesmo acabar desencorajando os jogadores a darem trancos ou brigar é sacanagem, é jogar boa parte do espírito do hóquei no lixo.

    • cnbeiro
      sexta-feira, 24 fevereiro 2012 às 11:38

      Concordo totalmente … e tenho sentido falta da presença dos enforcers. As brigas hoje parecem meio estranhas … meio de brincadeira … muitas vezes o jogador nem parte pra briga, ignora o adversário …
      Sei que isso auxilia na preservação física dos jogadores, mas é algo inerente ao hóquei! Uma pena ver Colton Orr nos Marlies, não por falta de qualidade, mas por falta de função na NHL.

  1. sexta-feira, 24 fevereiro 2012 às 13:17

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